Link blog: debate, funny, game-theory, humour

Mitchell and Webb – Stalin Vs Hitler (arguing the moral toss)

"Welcome to Arguing the Moral Toss". You know who else said that: Hitler!
(tags: hitler stalin mitchell-and-webb funny video youtube morality humour debate)

The Redheaded Skeptic

"Notes on the journey from minister's wife to atheist". Laura from Arkansas was married to a Baptist pastor who sounds like a real charmer. She writes about the emotional side of her transition to atheism.
(tags: atheism christianity religion de-conversion fundamentalism complementarianism)

The ad hominem fallacy fallacy

What is, and is not, an ad hominem argument (for example, insults aren't, unless they're part of an argument).
(tags: logic philosophy argument language fallacy writing debate ad-hominem)

The Loitering Presence of the Rational ­Actor

A review of "The Bounds of Reason: Game Theory and the Unification of the Behavioral Sciences" by Herbert Gintis. The reviewer goes into examples of where human behaviour deviates from economists' ideas of rationality.
(tags: rationality economics cognitive-bias game-theory prisoners-dilemma)

pshift man page

The manual page for the paradigm shift utility on Unix. An oldie, but a goodie.
(tags: funny unix paradigm kuhn)

8 Comments on "Link blog: debate, funny, game-theory, humour"

  1. The big question I keep seeing about ad hominem is whether “This person has previously shown themselves to be ignorant/misinformed/lying/batshit on this subject on several occasions, therefore I have better things to do with my time than to rigorously investigate all their arguments this time” is ad hominem and if so whether it’s justifiable.


    1. I think it’s a legitimate reason not to put effort into examining someone’s argument in detail. None of us infinite time for this sort of thing.

      But having taken that tack you can conclude nothing *about* their argument. Maybe I can’t be bothered to read the latest Dan Brown book because I’ve read others and assume this will be much of the same nonsense; but having decided that I can’t also review it.


    2. Also, conversely, ignoring the arguments of people who’re being offensive arses, even if not philosophically justified, might act as a deterrent to being an offensive arsehole. I guess this is the deal with unparliamentary language – doesn’t matter if someone has a great point, if they’re slagging off their fellow disputants they can get out.


      1. Yes, agreed – being abusive may not be a logical fallacy. But it’s still rude. So it’s perfectly legitimate to ban/ignore people who are abusive, just not to accuse them of the ad hominem fallacy.


    3. Yeah. I think the concept of “ad hominem” implicitely assumes you’ve already decided to come to an opinion on the argument. I don’t know whether it includes legitimate claims that “this person isn’t necessarily wrong, but is probably wrong, because X, so don’t waste your time”.

      So if you’re already arguing with someone, the concept of ad hominem says its uninformative to _then_ claim they’re wrong because they’re untrustworthy in some way. But it mightn’t apply if you just ignored them in the first placer.


    4. Reminds me of Yudkowsky’s stuff on reversed stupidity and the follow up, Argument Screens Off Authority.

      If someone is reliably wrong (a well informed liar), you can learn something by listening to them: you just increase the weight you give to beliefs which contradict what they say on topics where you know they tend to lie. But this might not be useful, if you already strongly believe stuff which contradicts what they say.

      In practice, the people are ignorant or batshit haven’t carefully studied how to be wrong. There are more ways to be wrong than right, so they probably are wrong, but you don’t learn anything by listening to them, because their statements aren’t tangled up with the truth at all. As Yudkowsky and brokenhut say, you can decide not to listen to such people because life is too short, but that decision shouldn’t influence your opinion on the truth of their argument (though it’s hard not to be influenced in practice). So I think your quoted statement is a justifiable one as long as you don’t append “and I’ll believe their argument less as a result”.

      Suber’s stuff on logical rudeness covers the case where your belief that they’re batshit is because of some theory you hold which includes explanations of how all critics of the theory are batshit (examples exist in evangelical Christianity, atheism and feminism, that I’ve seen). ISTM that such a theory can’t be used to dismiss critical arguments, though it can be used to explain why so many people apparently don’t believe the theory.


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